Tuesday, March 29, 2011

International law. Does it work?

This has been one of my biggest questions since I have been politically aware. It was something that helped me to decide my major when I was attending Saint Mary's in the early aughts, when the political atmosphere was at its most toxic and Iraq was invaded. When neo-conservatism seemed to be at the height of releasing its long repressed rage.

From what I can gather about the Western powers air strikes in Libya, they do seem to be turning things around, and for what it's worth, I'm happy that they are. Col. Khadaffy had in effect declared war on his own people, and that is a good reason for outside powers to intervene when they can. In a similar vein, a really good reason to intervene is when one country decided to invade and annex another country, like with the first (second) Gulf War when Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I have always agreed with the Western powers forceful ouster of Hussein from Kuwait, because it was the essential purpose of why organizations like the United Nations were put in place to begin with. I also heartily agreed with the invasion of Afghanistan, because there were so many reasons to do so.

I could have agreed with the second (third) Gulf War under the right circumstances, but it was done in such a haughty, high-horsed manner that alienated too many people. It may even have been illegal, but international law is a different animal. I think that the bombing of Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1998 was largely considered the right thing to do, even if it was illegal, because it supposedly averted a mass slaughter.

It took quite a while, and it almost seemed that it would never happen, and the rebels were at the verge of being defeated, but somehow, Western nations with authorization from the United Nations have been striking Libyan tanks and artillery and enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. As a result, the rebels have gained just about everything they lost in the last couple of weeks. And what's more, the U.S. is ceding the lead to this mission to NATO forces dominated by European nations. It's hard to see how this will end.

It does seem that it is mostly being done 'by the book', even if President Obama did not ask Congress, which some conservatives object to (should we remind them of Gulf War I back in '91). There has been no serious talk about sending any land troops to Libya, even then, that may not require a formal declaration of war (reached the point of my uncertainty). International law does seem to be working this time around, and to all the kneejerk anti-war pundits, it does require force. Certainly loss of life is nothing to make light of, but there are times that you have to make a choice: less slaughter, or more slaughter. I believe that they made the right choice.

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